Norwich - History - Early Modern Period (1485–1640)

Early Modern Period (1485–1640)

Hand-in-hand with the wool industry, this key religious centre experienced a Reformation significantly different to other parts of England. The magistracy in Tudor Norwich unusually found ways of managing religious discord whilst maintaining civic harmony.

The year 1549 saw an unprecedented rebellion in Norfolk, which, unlike popular challenges elsewhere in the Tudor period, appears to have been Protestant in nature. For several weeks Kett's rebels camped outside Norwich on Mousehold Heath and took control of the city, with the support of many of its poorer inhabitants. Unusually in England it divided a city and appears to have linked Protestantism with the plight of the urban poor. In the case of Norwich this process was later underscored by the arrival of Dutch and Flemish 'Strangers' fleeing Catholic persecution and eventually numbering as many as one third of the city's population. Perhaps in response to Kett, Norwich became the first provincial city to initiate compulsory payments for a civic scheme of poor relief, which Pound claims led to its wider introduction, forming the basis of the later Elizabethan Poor Law of 1597–8.

Norwich has traditionally been the home of various dissident minorities, notably the French Huguenot and the Belgian Walloon communities in the 16th and 17th centuries. The great 'Stranger' immigration of 1567 brought a substantial Flemish and Walloon community of Protestant weavers to Norwich, where they are said to have been made welcome. The merchant's house—now a museum—which was their earliest base in the city is still known as 'Strangers' Hall'. It seems that the Strangers were integrated into the local community without a great deal of animosity, at least among the business fraternity who had the most to gain from their skills. The arrival of the Strangers in Norwich bolstered trade with mainland Europe, fostering a movement toward religious reform and radical politics in the city.

The Norwich Canary was first introduced into England by Flemish refugees fleeing from Spanish persecution in the 16th century. They brought with them not only advanced techniques in textile working but also their pet canaries, which they began to breed locally, the little yellow bird eventually to become, in the 20th century, the city's most beloved mascot. The canary is the emblem of the city's football club, Norwich City F.C., nicknamed "The Canaries".

Printing was introduced to the city by Anthony de Solempne, one of the 'Strangers' in 1567 but did not become established and had died out by about 1572.

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